EMPLOYERS could be on the wrong side of the law if they do not make sure all their staff are entitled to work in the UK when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

One law firm fears business people may have put the Brexit deadlines to the “back of their mind” while dealing with the implications of Covid-19.

Whatever happens in negotiations with the European Union, workers from the EU face new restrictions at the start of 2021.

Jane Biddlecombe, immigrations specialist and associate solicitor in the employment team at Southampton law firm Paris Smith, said: “EU nationals who are not already based in the UK will need a skilled worker visa to come and work in the country as of January 1.

“To employ them, a business will need to be registered as a sponsor with a sponsor licence and be able to meet the requirements of the new points-based immigration system.

“The process can currently take up to eight weeks and it is anticipated that there will be a surge in demand at the end of the year so applications may take longer.

“Amongst the fog of the Covid-19 restrictions and changes, firms could be forgiven for having put the upcoming Brexit deadlines to the back of their mind. The Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020, and brings big changes for EU citizens who want to come and live and work in the UK.

“Employers need to have these deadlines at the top of their agenda – and they need to act soon.”

Any EU citizen who wants to live and work in the UK without restrictions must be already living in Britain by December 31 and be able to prove it.

An EU citizen who wants to continue living and working in the UK must apply through the EU Settlement Scheme by June 30, 2021. They can apply for “pre-settled” status if they have been in the UK for less than five years or settled status if they have been in the country longer.

Those who do not take these steps will be subject to immigration and enforcement action as of July 1 next year.

It will also be illegal for any UK organisation to employ them.

Paris Smith says employers should identify EU citizens who could be affected, inform them of the need to apply and provide them with support.

Although the deadline for obtaining pre-settled or settled status is next June 30, Paris Smith advises against leaving the process until the last minute. From January, businesses will need to ensure all their staff have the right to work in the UK, and the easiest way to do so is for staff to have evidence of their status.